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Birth of a concept

This book tells the story of the emergence of the concept of crimes against humanity. It examines its origins, the ethical assumptions underpinning it, its legal and philosophical boundaries and some of the controversies connected with it. A brief historical introduction is followed by an exploration of the various meanings of the term ‘crimes against humanity’ that have been suggested; a definition is proposed linking it to the idea of basic human rights. The book looks at some problems with the boundaries of the concept, the threshold for its proper application and the related issue of humanitarian intervention. It concludes with a discussion of the prospects for the further development of crimes-against-humanity law.

Norman Geras

02 Crimes Against Humanity 032-074 3/12/10 10:11 Page 32 2 Why against humanity? In this chapter I ask in what sense acts characterized as being crimes against humanity can be reckoned to be, indeed, against humanity. As we have seen, the category emerged formally at the end of the Second World War in connection with the trials of Nazi war criminals, and although its emergence was not just out of the blue but foreshadowed by the earlier developments within customary international law which I surveyed in the last chapter, its use as one of the headings in

in Crimes against humanity
Humanitarian discourse in New South Wales, 1788–1830
Jillian Beard

punishment, observes marine lieutenant Watkin Tench (1758–1833), if they had refrained from also stealing spears and fishing tackle from the local Indigenous peoples, an offence that they had been repeatedly warned about. If not for that, he claims, ‘humanity would have been anxious to plead in their defence’. 1 This account is one of many which Tench included in his two volumes related to his time in the colony: A Narrative of the

in Humanitarianism, empire and transnationalism, 1760–1995
Christine Byron

Background to crimes against humanity The origins of crimes against humanity are less clear than those of war crimes, but the concept was first invoked in the early nineteenth century in order to condemn brutal treatment by a State of its own citizens. 1 The concept of crimes against humanity was also referred to in the preambular paragraphs of the 1868 St Petersburg Declaration and the 1907 Hague Convention, which alluded to limits imposed by the ‘laws of humanity’ during armed conflicts, but the notion

in War crimes and crimes against humanity in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court
Silvia Salvatici

place, the battle against slavery was intimately connected with the recognition of the suffering of other human beings, different because of their servile condition, from another race and often from geographically distant populations. This recognition was considered in itself a demonstration of humanity, Christianity and civilisation. In the second place, the abolitionist cause was associated with ‘modern’ forms of mobilisation, which, in Britain particularly, channelled a broad popular involvement and aimed to pressurise the relevant institutions. The creation of

in A history of humanitarianism, 1755–1989
Uses and Misuses of International Humanitarian Law and Humanitarian Principles
Rony Brauman

organisations find their place in war. That is not nothing, and it makes IHL worth defending. To expect more is to forget what it is, at bottom, and delude ourselves about its virtues. To imply that war can be civilised by law is to ignore the political realities of both law and war. Henry Dunant talked about creating ‘oases of humanity’ in the flood of violence that is war. Let us take that at its word; humanitarians try, with varying but real success, to create oases of at least

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Jenny Edkins

humanitarianism, humanity, human 73 4 Humanitarianism, 1 humanity, human A few people have a bed for the night For a night the wind is kept from them The snow meant for them falls on the roadway – Bertolt Brecht2 Brecht’s poem A Bed for the Night tells how a man stands on a street corner in New York soliciting beds for the homeless. Although this ‘won’t change the world’, it does mean ‘a few men have a bed for the night’. The reader is called upon not to ‘put the book down on reading this’, because there is more to be said. What remains to be said is the

in Change and the politics of certainty
Three centuries of Anglophone humanitarianism, empire and transnationalism
Trevor Burnard
Joy Damousi
, and
Alan Lester

potential of the Rights of Man. Samuel Moyn has argued that humanitarianism and human rights, often thought of as sharing a common point of origin in late eighteenth-century Enlightenment ideas of humanity, are more accurately thought of as distinct. 13 Both may have had origins related to aspects of Enlightenment thought, but drew very different conclusions from it. The internationalist human rights discourse of the 1970s identified by Moyn was

in Humanitarianism, empire and transnationalism, 1760–1995
Alanna O’Malley

11 1 A challenge for humanity When the Congo crisis erupted in the heart of Africa in June 1960, it was not the first time that the country had been thrust into the international spotlight. The former Belgian colony, and once personal treasure trove of King Leopold II from 1885 to 1908, had been the focus of international attention since the journalist Edmund Dene Morel delivered a damning report of atrocities committed by Leopold’s regime in 1900. A British journalist, Morel wrote a series of lurid accounts of the abuse of the Congolese people as part of

in The diplomacy of decolonisation
Theodore Roosevelt’ssecond corollary to the Monroe Doctrine
Charlie Laderman

corollary was described as being in the USA’s ‘own interest as well as in the interest of humanity at large’, Roosevelt stated that the corollary on extreme humanitarian atrocities covered ‘cases, in which, while our own interests are not greatly involved, strong appeal is made to our sympathies’. Furthermore, while the first corollary ranked the USA alongside the great European

in Rhetorics of empire